Maggie is a pretty smart person, even if she is a dog.
Our eight pound, fluffy, black poodle has many admirable qualities which I have observed and wondered about. For example, almost every time she gets up from lying down for any period, she takes a long stretch. She doesn’t rush it and lengthens herself as far as she possibly can and seems so satisfied when she is finished.
Since it is the time of year when we all try to find something about ourselves to improve, I’ve been thinking about Maggie’s exercise and have decided that stretching is something I could do that would bring benefits to an aging body. People around the world find increased stamina and satisfaction in the practice of yoga.
Yoga Journal reports that 8.7 percent of the adults in the United States practice yoga. Seventy-eight percent say they are motivated by a desire to improve flexibility, conditioning, stress relief, and general health and fitness. Of the 15 million involved, 72 percent are female and 27 percent are male. Twenty-seven billion dollars are spent on yoga products yearly.
Various forms of yoga have been practiced for over 5,000 years and several world religions have taught yoga and meditation as part of their activities. In the West, the focus tends to be on mastering physical poses, practicing certain breathing techniques, and simply relaxing.
The ultimate goal is the improvement of balance, flexibility, and strength. As with all exercise, it is wise to consult with a physician about personal benefits and limitations.
Advantages of regular yoga practice may include better breathing and increased lung capacity, improved concentration and posture, lowering of blood pressure and heart rate, and lessening of stress. Medical researchers are studying the effects of therapeutic yoga on conditions like asthma and arthritis.
The stretching done during some of the yoga motions safely extends muscles and may release the lactic acid that builds up causing stiffness, tension, pain and fatigue, thus improving flexibility. Yoga may also increase the range of motion in the joints and improve muscle tone.
The term yoga means union or yoke and its goals are the strengthening of one’s body, mind, and spirit and the pursuit of inner harmony.
After school, daycare, physical education, and community programs are exploring the benefits of yoga for children. Increased self-esteem, self-discipline, and sense of wellbeing seem to be major benefits for students. Ability to focus, balance, concentration, and confidence are also improved by the activities that increase physical and mental self-awareness.
Studies have revealed that yoga can be helpful for children with ADHD and autism, too. Port Discover offers a “Mommy and Me Yoga” class for mothers and young children. The first Tuesday morning class was successful and will continue to be held monthly as part of our health and wellness program for children.
There is something for everyone in the practice of yoga. You are never too young or too old to improve yourself.
Judi Stuart is the Visitor Services Manager at Port Discover